The Changing Landscape of Education

Brought to my attention by Dangeriously Irrelevant’s Scott McLeod, is news that MIT is now repackaging its MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative for secondary teachers and students.  In his article, Scott points to an Education Week piece that describes the project and how high school teachers and students are beginning to use it.  Launched in 2001, and talked about frequently by Alan November, the OpenCourseWare Initiative features…

…2,600 video and audio clips from faculty lectures, as well as assignments and lecture notes. Some of that material is assembled on the site for specific high school classes, such as Advanced Placement biology, calculus, and physics, which are college-preparatory courses.

For classrooms with standard contemporary information and communication technologies, this and other similar offerings from the Internet represent opportunities that are, quite simply, foreign to our traditional notions of teaching and learning.  It is these obsolete (and dangerous) notions that, no doubt, lead to actions such as our president’s zeroing out federal technology funding for FY09, leaving most classrooms without standard contemporary information and communication technologies.

GlobalScholar Tutor Interface
GlobalScholar Tutor Interface
Even more foreign to education as we know it, is a product that I took a tour of yesterday, thanks to Shmuly Tennenhaus.  I don’t think I’ve been so intrigued, excited, or felt my old-fashioned senses so threatened in years as what I saw in their product, GlobalScholar.  The company features three offerings, starting with a web-based learning management system.  Currently providing their bread and butter, the LMS will soon serve 800,000 students in South Carolina.

The company is also working toward establishing educational portals for schools.  The higher ed product is the most refined part of the product, and I learned that my alma mata, Western Carolina University, was attended by Mel Gibson (class of 1992) — that was Mel Gibson, the basket ball player.

But, what really rocked my boat was their online tutoring platform.  Still in beta, the site can best be described as an eBay for education.  It facilitates buyers and sellers in the world of teaching and learning.  Potential tutors submit their offering, advertising what they can teach, their availability, and their charge — roughly $10 to $50 an hour.  GlobalScholar runs an extensive security check on the tutor, and if passed, the tutor is added to the searchable catalog, which is organized by grade level and subject area.  Tutors are ranked in the listings by the ratings of their past clients — a trust index.

Tutors can offer scheduled tutoring, instant/on-demand sessions, homework help (the client uploads their essay or report and the tutor evaluates it and sends it back), and self-paced learning materials, which the client pays to access.  Tennenhaus also showed me the tutor interface, which is fairly standard, with chat, whiteboard, file exchange, and audio headset interaction, and the ability to utilize the whiteboard as a slide show.  More enhanced features are in the works.

All in all, it is another indication of an education environment that not only offers new learning experiences for students, but, perhaps even more importantly, demands that the institution of schools adapt to this new landscape or continue to fall into irrelevancy.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.